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“Dopey Media Whiffs Again”: No, Dems Aren’t “Playing Politics” By Exposing GOP Idiocy

Lazy Beltway pundits have discovered a new Obama scandal: The president is telling his base the truth about how Republicans are making their lives worse, and he must be stopped.

Last week, Obama was accused of ginning up his base’s anger over voting rights: The New York Times reduced his Friday speech on the issue to an effort “to rally his political base,” while the Washington Post depicted the Democrats’ focus on voting rights as mere partisan strategy, calling it the party’s “most important project in 2014.”

Then came the National Journal’s James Oliphant, declaring that “Democrats are giving Republicans a run for their money in practicing the politics of grievance.” Oliphant accused Democrats of cynically exploiting anger over voter ID laws and the failure of bills to hike the minimum wage, reform the immigration system and help women achieve pay equity, for political gain.

Slate’s John Dickerson has topped them all, however, with “Obama trolls the GOP,” his Thursday column accusing the president of lying about the wage gap between men and women in order to win votes. Dickerson is the one doing the trolling, as he sort of admits upfront, blaming the Internet for rewarding columns that call the president names and make an argument without nuance.

But the essence of Dickerson’s argument is of a piece with the lazy “grievance” meme spreading among his peers: Obama is doing something wrong by telling a component of his coalition, in this case women, that Republican policies are hurting them. In other words, telling the truth while also, yes, practicing politics.

We can certainly debate which number we should use when debating pay equity, but the notion that Obama is deliberately lying to create “stray voltage” by choosing the wrong number seems cynical or worse. Dickerson relies on a Major Garrett column that relies on an older Major Garrett column in which White House adviser David Plouffe explained his theory of “stray voltage” – how any controversy, even ones that seem to hurt Obama, can be put to good political use when “stray voltage” from said outrage sparks the ire of Obama’s base.

Supposedly, the controversy around the White House continuing to use the Census Bureau figure – that women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar – even though other studies find a smaller gap, cements the impression that Republicans oppose measures to close the gap, and may create “stray voltage” to galvanize women voters in 2014 and 2016. Oliphant likewise relies on the pay-gap flap, and the Democrats’ embrace of the doomed Paycheck Fairness Act, as an example of unfair “grievance politics.”

But Republicans do oppose virtually all measures that might close the gap. It’s not just the Paycheck Fairness Act; take the minimum wage. Republicans (and others) say that 77 percent figure exaggerates the pay gap between equally qualified men and women, because women are clustered in low-wage fields. Raising the minimum wage would be a great way to get at that particular pay-gap widener, since two thirds of minimum wage workers are women. But of course, Republicans oppose not only the Paycheck Fairness Act, but an increase in the minimum wage as well.

Oh, but Democrats continuing to agitate for a minimum wage hike? That’s also unfair “grievance politics,” according to Oliphant, because “it may animate minority voters.” Concern about traditional low turnout in midterm elections, he writes:

… has forced the party to find reasons for people to come out and vote, and they’ve selected issues that target slices of the electorate. Hence, equal pay, an issue that especially resonates with single women; the minimum wage, which may animate minority voters; and immigration reform, which galvanizes Hispanics. And likely coming soon to a [Harry] Reid press availability near you: student-loan modification, teed up for the hard-to-get youth vote.

So let me make sure I understand. Telling your voters, accurately, that Republicans are trying to make it harder for them to vote, and are blocking action on pay equity, the minimum wage and immigration reform is unfair “grievance politics”? Likewise, any effort to deal with the scandal of $1 trillion in student loan debt? Oliphant compares it to the grievance politics practiced by Republicans under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. But that form of grievance politics mainly relied on inflaming white voters’ fears of cultural and racial change with false or highly exaggerated claims about Democrats.

I would also argue that when one party’s leaders declare upfront that they’re going to block everything the other party’s president tries to do, and when that party even retreats from solutions to problems that it once favored – in the GOP’s case, that includes the individual mandate, immigration reform, cap and trade, the Voting Rights Act, and periodic increases to the minimum wage — the cultivation of anger in order to turn out voters is an excellent and entirely defensible strategy. In fact, Republican obstructionism seems designed at least partly to demoralize the Obama coalition — many of them occasional voters already discouraged by the political process. If you can convince young people, Latinos and women that voting changes nothing, you can make up for your reliance on aging white voters.

This new story line also reinforces a core Republican claim about Obama and the Democrats: that they’re trying to buy off the electorate with “gifts,” to use sore-loser Mitt Romney’s term. When rich people use the political process to make their lives better, that’s just the way things work. When people who aren’t rich do so, they’re looking for a handout. This new “grievance politics” story line is just one more way mainstream journalism’s weakness for false equivalence, which is intellectually lazy, politically rewards Republicans.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 17, 2014

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Journalism, Media, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Somebody’s Got To Sell That Platform”: Wingnuts’ New 2016 Hero? Marsha Blackburn Is Perfect!

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn is having a moment, of sorts. An anonymous aide told Real Clear Politics last week that she was going to New Hampshire to “test the waters” for a 2016 presidential run. And why not? Blackburn would be the only woman in the race (so far), and she’s no worse than the rest of the oft-mentioned male candidates.

She’s no better, either, despite being floated as someone who might help Republicans with skeptical women voters. Blackburn, you’ll recall, became the public face of the House GOP’s 20-week abortion ban last year when Rep. Trent Franks said the bill didn’t exempt cases of rape because “the incidence of pregnancy from rape is very low.” She had earlier become a GOP hero for insisting on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that women “didn’t want” pay equity laws.  “I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be given a job because I was a female, I wanted it because I was the most well-qualified person for the job,” she told David Gregory. “And making certain that companies are going to move forward in that vein, that is what women want.” In fact, women overwhelmingly want pay equity, and they support laws to achieve it, according to public opinion polls.

Now that pay equity is back in the news, thanks to Democrats pushing the Paycheck Fairness Act, Blackburn is in demand again. She told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that “we’re all for equal pay.” But the GOP supports neither the Paycheck Fairness Act nor the minimum wage, which would hugely help women, who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers. “I would love for women to be focused on maximum wage,” Blackburn bizarrely explained. She went on to insist “I have fought to be recognized with equality for a long time. A lot of us get tired of guys condescending to us.”

This is what Republicans hope they can reduce this debate to: complaining about “guys condescending to us,” not guys being paid more, or guys paying less for insurance (as they did before the Affordable Care Act) or guys making laws that tell women what they can do with their bodies.

Appearing at the Freedom Summit in New Hampshire, Blackburn tried out the idea that it’s actually Democrats who are condescending to women.

“Women aren’t a cheap date,” she told conservatives there. “Women want a little bit more out of life than contraceptives.” Describing women as any kind of “date,” whether cheap or expensive, seems condescending to me, but I’m not a Republican woman.

You’ve almost got to feel sorry for Republicans, they seem so clueless about what to do about their problem with female voters. The Associated Press has a story today about a new GOP strategy to court women, which comes down to encouraging male politicians to feature their wives and daughters in campaign ads, and something weirdly called “14 in ’14,” to recruit and train women under 40 to spread the GOP message in the last 14 weeks of the 2014 midterm campaign. That’s not recruiting and training women candidates, mind you, just some young women who will hit the campaign trail in the home stretch on behalf of predominantly male candidates.

It’s worth noting that although Blackburn served in Congress when the GOP held the House, the Senate and the White House, the single piece of legislation I could find that she had signed into law was the Wool Suit Fabric Labeling Fairness and International Standards Conforming Act of 2006. She has also successfully sponsored resolutions renaming various Tennessee Post Office buildings as well as (to her credit) one honoring the late Issac Hayes.

None of that would likely hurt her in the GOP primaries, where Rep. Michele Bachmann and pizza magnate Herman Cain briefly held leads back in 2012.

A Blackburn run isn’t a done deal; a communications staffer denied that she was considering it. “She is running to represent the people of the TN 7th Congressional district,” Darcy Anderson told the Daily Caller.  It’s also hard for House members of either party or gender to run for the White House, as they mostly lack a fundraising base and must also run for reelection every two years. Still, I wouldn’t count Blackburn out.

The GOP might be well-served by having a woman at the top of the ticket, at a time when their top priority is a massive transfer of income away from women and back to men, by repealing ACA provisions prohibiting charging women more for insurance. Somebody’s got to sell that platform, and it wouldn’t be the first time a terrible, thankless job got foisted on a woman.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 14, 2014

April 15, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Women | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“RNC Unveils Its ‘14 In ‘14’ Plan”: A Stroke of Genius, Include More Women In Campaign Ads

When Democratic policymakers started a fight over the Paycheck Fairness Act, Republicans responded by dismissing it as a hollow, election-year stunt. Sure, it was a substantive policy response to a legitimate issue, but GOP officials said the debate itself was little more than a cheap political exercise – which women voters would see through immediately.

And speaking of cheap political exercises that women voters will see through immediately…

The Republican National Committee plans a new initiative, “14 in ‘14,” to recruit and train women under age 40 to help spread the party’s message in the final 14 weeks of the campaign. […]

They are encouraging candidates to include their wives and daughters in campaign ads, have women at their events and build a Facebook-like internal database of women willing to campaign on their behalf.

I see. If Democrats push the Paycheck Fairness Act, they’re cynically trying to give the appearance of helping women in the workplace. But if Republicans include more women in campaign ads, that’s just quality messaging.

The “14 in ‘14” initiative, it’s worth noting, is actually a fallback plan of sorts. The original strategy was to push “Project GROW,” in which Republicans would recruit more women candidates to run for Congress in 2014. That project failed – there are actually going to be fewer Republican women running for Congress in this cycle than in 2012.

Presumably, “encouraging candidates to include their wives and daughters in campaign ads” is intended to compensate for the misstep, while hoping voters overlook the GOP’s opposition to pay-equity legislation and its preoccupation with issues such as restricting women’s reproductive rights and access to contraception?

Greg Sargent also had a good piece questioning the utility of the “14 in ‘14” plan.

Democrats are actively building their women’s economic agenda around the broader idea that women face unique economic challenges. A recent CNN poll found that 55 percent of Americans, and 59 percent of women, don’t believe the GOP understands the problems women face today. A Republican National Committee spokeswoman recently admitted that Republicans need to do a better job appearing in touch with women.

Republicans oppose a minimum wage hike; oppose Dem proposals to address pay inequity (while admitting it is a legitimate problem); and are telling women that their economic prospects can be improved by repealing Obamacare (and its protections for women). Indeed, they are even telling them that the push for pay equity is nothing but a distraction from the health law. Yes, Republicans could win big this fall with such an agenda. But this could also prove another area where structural factors ensure that Republicans win in 2014 in spite of the failure to address the need — which they themselves have acknowledged — to broaden their appeal to women with an eye towards future national elections.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 14, 2014

April 15, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Women | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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